Submitted by Suanne Z. Thamm
Reporter – News Analyst
May 5, 2021
Following in the footsteps of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, the Fernandina Beach City Commission (FBCC) at their May 4, 2021 Regular Meeting voted 4-1 to immediately lift the City’s requirement for face masks at indoor gatherings. The lone dissenter, Commissioner Chip Ross, continued to support the face mask requirement, claiming that public health concerns outweighed political considerations.
In making the motion to change course, Vice Mayor Len Kreger said that the face mask mandate has created divisiveness in the community and that continuing the unenforceable mandate which has been in effect for over a year is not productive. Commissioner David Sturges seconded his motion.
By changing the language from “requirement” to “recommendation” Kreger believed that the decision to wear or not wear a face mask would be left up to individuals, who can make personal decisions regarding the value of masking depending on their personal circumstances.
Commissioner Chip Ross continued to support the mandate, citing health concerns. However, other commissioners cited what appears to be growing concern among residents to return life to normal. Coupled with recent decisions by Governor DeSantis limiting local governments’ ability to enact and enforce laws to address specific community concerns, the FBCC’s mandate seemed increasingly untenable.
Following their vote, all commissioners except Ross removed their face masks. Some audience members followed.
Commissioners also agreed to add more seats to the Commission Chambers to accommodate more audience members at future meetings. After discussion over how many seats should be added, commissioners agreed to double current capacity.
Commissioners agreed to extend the local state of emergency and make changes as CDC modifies its guidelines to deal with pandemic related issues.
At this time it is estimated that only 33 percent of Nassau County residents have been fully vaccinated.